A SURVEY of in-house counsel has revealed that resources may be tight, but there’s still a general trend of handling an increasing number of matters within the business.
According to the survey by Deloitte, more work is now being done in-house — a trend that may see less general work heading the way of the external law firms. The study of 113 in-house lawyers found that the majority of respondents believe a trend to bring resources in-house is emerging, with 35 per cent stating that there is likely to be a significant trend in handling more matters in-house.
Chris Phillips, disputes lead partner at Deloitte, said this is a trend he has not seen before. “I think it’s a trend that has emerged as the role of in-house counsel has become more important,” he said. “The people who take these roles are generally senior partners at law firms who are attracted by the role because of the benefits.”
There are also cost pressures, making the ability to shift work to external firms difficult. From there, said Phillips, some businesses may be inclined to bring permanent capabilities on board if it meets the needs of a long-term business strategy. “I’ve seen in some areas, in-house counsel building teams to deal with reccurring issues,” he said.
With this trend, Phillips said law firms are not necessarily feeling the pull of a drop in work, but rather seeing more valuable and complex work come their way.
While most respondents (74 per cent) said they had sufficient resources to meet the legal needs of their business, 28 per cent still reported feeling they are juggling many issues at once. Another 25 per cent said they rely on continued support for external service providers.
When questioned about their current workloads, only some respondents reported that they expect the current regulatory climate to increase the demand for in-house legal resources.
These figures are despite the fact that the Business Regulation Action Plan from the Business Council of Australia has found that regulation at Commonwealth and State levels is growing at a rate of more than twice Australia’s economic growth — 10 per cent per annum.
However, most in-house respondents believe that changing workloads will see their teams increase, with 61 per cent predicting such changes will occur in the next 12 months. It’s a figure that comes after the ACLA/CLANZ legal Department Benchmarking Report 2008 found that two thirds of respondents are planning to expand their in-house legal teams over the next 24 months.